Famous Ottolenghis

Giuseppe Isaaco Ottolengi is probably the best known Ottolenghi of recent history is and this is his story.

In 2004 I was living in Rome and amongst other things I was researching the history of the Italian Ottolenghi, when as founder of Ottolenghi International and co-founder of its internet site I was contacted by Alberto Sarzi Madidini of the historical association of the Comune di Sabionetta to assist with the translation of his publication on the biography of General Ottolenghi.

The following is an abridged and adapted version of that publication.

Soldier, General, 
 Senator of the Realm,
    Minister of War

Famous Sabionetani – The Commemorative Post Card 1903

Famous dignitaries, senators and ministers, Giuseppe Ottolenghi is at the bottom right

Giuseppe Isaaco Ottolenghi – Birth Certificate
The house in Sabionetta where Ottolenghi was born

Soldier, General, 
 Senator of the Realm, Minister of War 

Translated, adapted and abridged 
from the Italian original written by 
Alberto Sarzi Madidini 
On the Centenary of General Ottolenghi’s Death 

On 2 November 1904 General Giuseppe Ottolenghi,  who was born in Sabbioneta in the north of Italy, died in Turin. Only one year earlier he was the Minister of War in the second Zanardelli government appointed to that illustrious position directly by King Vittorio Emanuele III, following the General’s posting as Instructor of Military Science.

It was the last in a series of important positions held by the General in his illustrious and multi-decorated military and political career as a result of which he became very high-ranking figure in the Jewish history of Italy and Europe. 

From his heroic debut as a volunteer in the “Risorgimento” campaigns to emancipate and reunify Italy, to the fight against the “Brigantaggio” the bandit gangs who were attacking landowners in the south of Italy, until the restructure of the army after the disasters of the wars in Africa, his contribution was of great importance for the unification and the consolidation of the new Italian State. An example of almost complete religious integration, the first Italian Jew to be made a general and eventually becoming a Senator of the Realm and later the Minister of War, his biography personifies those exceptional qualities of his life. 

The Ottolenghi are one of the more important Italian Jewish families. 

In the communities of Asti, Acqui, Casale, Mondovì and Moncalvo the Ottolenghi have always been numerous. It is, in fact, from Acqui (actually Acqui Terme, in the Piemonte province of Alessandria) that the father of Giuseppe, Aronne (Aaron) Ottolenghi came. In 1824, Aronne married the Sabbionetana, Gentila Forti, daughter of the important local Jewish family. 

The first Jews had come to Sabbioneta in 1436 and their community has always made a remarkable contribution to the city. The Jewish printing house that operated in Sabbioneta in the second half of the 1500’s contributed in decisive way to the spread of Judaic literature in Europe. In the first decades of 19th the century the Jewish community of Sabbioneta was still fairly large (in 1848 it numbered nearly two hundred) so many that in 1824, the year of the marriage of Aronne and Gentila, Giuseppe’s parents, a new synagogue was built. In these very years it happened that apart from Giuseppe Ottolenghi, another great Jewish Sabbionetano was born, Professor Pio Foà, a doctor of famous reputation who would later become, like Ottolenghi, a Senator. 

The Register of Weddings of the Jewish Community of Sabbioneta, which is still conserved in the municipal library, reveals the following information concerning the wedding of Giuseppe’s parents: 

Date          : 12 March 1824 

Groom       : Ottolenghi,  Aronne, born 1 December 1797 in Acqui  domiclied in the  province of  Piemonte, businessman, Jewish, single. 

Bride          : Forti,  Gentila Ester, born  17 October 1805 in Sabbioneta, Jewish,  single 

Father of the Groom  :  Manuel Salomon Ottolenghi, of Acqui, businessman. 

Mother of the Groom  :  Giuditta de’ Benedetti, of Casale, businesswoman (deceased) 

Father of the Bride  :  Forti Abramo, of Sabbioneta, landowner. 

Mother of the Bride  :  Cantoni Lea, of Bozzolo, landowner. 

Witnesses  : Pincherle Jacobe of Verona (landowner currently domiciled in  Sabbioneta). 

Foà Leon of Sabbioneta, landowner. 

Signed  :  Aronne Ottolenghi, Groom – Gentile Ester Forti, Bride. 

By permit of the ’Imperial Regia Delegazione Provinciale dated 4 February 1824. 

Ceremony conducted by Sanson Levi, Rabbi of the Sabbioneta Jewish Community. 

The Ottolenghi family, we learn from the same registers, lived in a house in the Giulia District No. 70, where Giuseppe and all the other children of Aronne and Gentile were born. From recent research of the archives and from the current owners of the property we know that today the house is number 54 Via Vespasiano Gonzaga which is situated a few metres from the Forti family’s palazzo. Since 1811 the large house had been the property of Abramo Forti, the maternal grandfather of Giuseppe. The same palazzo later housed the Nievo family for a while. In fact, Antonio Nievo, father of the writer Ippolito Nievo, was the magistrate of Sabbioneta. Ippolito Nievo, wrote the novel “L’Emanuele” in 1852; it remained unknown and was only published in 1991. The novel was dedicated to the author’s Sabbionetano friend, Emanuele Ottolenghi, brother of Giuseppe. 

In the Jewish Register of Births of Sabbioneta (also preserved in the local library) the following details of Giuseppe’s birth are entered: 

Born on 26 December 1838 at 4 am 

Circumcised 2 January 1839 with the name of Giuseppe Isacco, legitimate son 

Mother  Forti Gentilla residing in Sabbioneta, Contrada Giulia 70 

Father   Ottolenghi Aronne residing in Sabbioneta, Contrada Giulia 70 

Married on 12 March 1824 before the Rabbi of the Jewish Community 

Both Jewish and landowners 

Godparents Leone Isaia Norsa, landowner residing in Mantova, Contrada Vicolo dell’Olio 3027

Michele Bonajuto Foà, residing in Sabbioneta, Contrada Belfiore number 145. 

Aronne Ottolenghi and his wife, Gentila Forti had, in addition to Giuseppe, seven other children. Their names and the little we know of some of them are thanks to the information registered in the books of births and deaths of the Sabbioneta Jewish Community. 

Giuditta Anna: Born in Sabbioneta, Via Giulia 70, 29 May 1825; died 21 July 1825. The baby girl died in the house of Abramo Forti and was buried on the same day in the local Jewish cemetery; the cause of death is recorded as:“convulsione non senza indizi di putrefazione”  – convulsions not without indications of gangrene. 

Salvatore: Born in Sabbioneta, Via Giulia 70, 11 July 1827. Godfather – Jacobbe Ottolenghi resident in Acqui Terme, Nuova District, no number. The newborn child died on 1 August 1827 in the house of Abramo Forti and was buried on the following day in the local Jewish cemetery; the cause of death is recorded as “febbre ardente” – a severe fever. 

Abramo: Born in Sabbioneta, Via Giulia 70, 4 November 1828. 

Emanuele Salomon: Born in Sabbioneta, Via Giulia 70, 2 October 1830. 

Elena: Born in Sabbioneta, Via Giulia 70, 20 May 1841; died in Sabbioneta 4 October 1841. The baby girl died in the house of the family Via Giulia 70, and was interred on the following day in the Sabbioneta Jewish cemetery; the cause of death is recorded as:“malattia di ventre cioè enterite” – a disease of the stomache i.e., enteritis 

Giacobbe: Born in Sabbioneta, Via Giulia 70, 30 September 1842. 

Adele Elena: Born in Sabbioneta, Via Giulia 70, 24 January 1845. 

After the birth of Adele Elena there are no further documentary references to the family’s presence in Sabbioneta. The Ottolenghi’s owned no property in Sabbioneta, the house in which they had lived remained the property of Abramo Forti until 5 March 1847, on which date it was sold to Salomone Foà.

We think that the Ottolenghi family left Sabbioneta for good in the period between 1845 and 1847 in order to return to Piemonte, the place from where Aronne Ottolenghi had come to Sabbioneta.

Nor are there any documents attesting to any consequent return of the General to Sabbioneta until in 1903, when the citizens decided to organise a celebration in honour of General Giuseppe Ottolenghi, and three other illustrious Sabbionetani. 

An article in a newspaper of the period describing the celebratory event.

“The clear blue sky expressed its intention to join us to beautify today’s festival, to render the Tricolour even livelier as it profusely waves everywhere. Many houses are bedecked with garlands of greenery. Along the route of the procession can be seen multi-coloured placards honouring  the illustrious citizens. The effect is most beautiful. 

“Since the early hours of the morning with the first trams from Mantova and Viadana, hundreds of people arrived and nearing 10 o’clock, they all approached the railway station in order to await the arrival of the special train. The station, recently embellished with a roof, is decked out with flags. The band of the 37th Infantry in dress uniform plays the Royal March. All appear and from every part applause erupts. “His Excellency Ottolenghi appears first on the balcony of the saloon wagon and doffs his hat in greeting. Following him the university professors, di Giovanni, Foà, and Albertoni. The Minister and Professor di Giovanni appear moved more than the others. The Mayor of Sabbioneta, Doctor Filippi, and the members of the Festival Committe ascend to deliver the salute of Sabbioneta. 

“With the same train, escorted personally by the director of the line Cav. Ing. Sacchett, arrives the prefect Comm. Vittorelli with some civlian dignitaries, the mayor of Commessaggio, Doctor Cessi, goes up to the station in formal dress to welcome His Excellency, with newspaper reporters outside. Also at Gazzuolo, the Minister was greeted by the Mayor, Cav. Viglioli, accompanied by other local dignitaries. In the station courtyard on hand are four magnificent official carriages placed at the disposal of the Committee. Also the well-known Count Cantoni Marca is there. The band of the 37th Infantry play the Royal March continuously, leading the procession that makes its way in time with the music and entering through XX September Gate in front of the Town Hall.”

“In the Council Chamber wait several members of the Committee and the splendid group of ladies who have organized the party which will begin later. As soon the guests of honour enter they are toasted with vermouth. The Mayor reads some telegrams of congratulation and the Order of the Day of the Committee that expresses the joy of the local population to host their illustrious fellow citizens, to see them re-united them in their home town, the pride of being able to call them fellow citizens, and to wish them long and prosperous life in which to honour and benefit the motherland and its peoples. They answer briefly and emotionally, the Minister, and then the three university professors between the most appreciative applause of all those present. At noon, escorted by the Mayor and the Committee, the Minister and the other guests of honour visit the local patriotic monuments. They take a unanimous decision to use their influence to devise some actions to end the neglect and decaying effects of time. There follow short visits to the local benefactory institutes and S.E is for a short time the guest of Cav. Emilio Forti, accepting the kind invitation to pay homage to his late mother who,  as is well known, was also a Forti. In the Great Hall on the first floor of the Town hall, at 2 o’clock there is a banquet for 120 guests. At the top table sit the four honoured citizens together with the prefect Comm. Vittorelli, the Mayor, Lieutenant-Colonel Tezzoli, commandant of the 69th regiment in full ceremonial uniform, the judge Signor Casara, the secretary and other notables. The formal banquet proceeds. At the dessert, the Minister responds to the address of the Mayor and the judge Signor Casara, repeating his thanks and his belief that the concord that has reigned in preparing for this day, will ensure the well-being of the city and its people. 

At the end of the banquet something very curious happened. All the banqueters armed with the commemorative postcards bearing the portraits of the four guests of honour, rushed to the top table to obtain everyone’s autographs: that is the proof that “collection mania” has invaded the world, even in its humblest recesses, the guests of honour remained patient and obliging. The Minister was informed, at 4.30 that the special train which was to take him to Ponte Maiocche was ready. The morning’s procession reformed lead by the band and accompanied by the huge crowd, His Excellency arrived at the station. Taking his leave of the Mayor and Professor Albertoni, he ascended the train with Comm. Vittorelli and the professors Di Giovanni and Foà, who were to accompany him to the next station, from where they then continued to Casalmaggiore. At the moment of departure, while an enthusiastic salute applauded him, His Excellency was visibly moved by emotion. In the afternoon the rest of the festival programme continued…”

Returning to the private life of the General, we know that he began to study at the University of Turin, but then in 1859, left to enter  the Military Academy at Ivrea. There are no documents in support of any other academic achievements but on 19 August 1871 he was appointed Professor of Military Science and History at the School of Infantry and Cavalry (Military Academy of Modena).

During that period, he wrote the treatise “Tactical and Special Operations” as asserted by Agosto del Forte in “Illustrious Sabbionetians”

“[It] is a presentation of military argument, and it results from appropriate studies of the art of war, manifested through time and the various circumstances in which the military events took place, and the practical experience of Ottolenghi on the battlefields, together with meditation on the errors of the past, and those which he himself had witnessed, without having yet the authority to provide solutions”

He was to remain at the Military Academy of Modena only for a couple of years and after that brief interruption returned to his military career.

Giuseppe married on 25 February 1877 (as reported in the “Copy of Service Records), Elisa Segre, widow of De Benedetti; there is no record of the couple having had any children.

The General died in his rooms in Turin at 12.30 a.m. on 2 November 1904. The following morning the Prefect of Turin, Gasperini, conveyed the sad news by telegram to the President of the Senate. The funeral took place on Friday 4th November 1904 at 2.00 pm, the body of the deceased was carried from his rooms to the Cemetery at 2.40 pm as reads the invitational telegram to the President of the Senate from the Commander of the Armed Forces, General Emanuele Filiberto di Savoia.

This Memorial Speech commemorating General Giuseppe Ottolenghi, was made in to the Senate on 3rd December 1904 by the President, the Hon. Tancredi Canonico:

“At a yet young age and in the prime of his life, without warning on 2 November in Turin General Giuseppe Ottolenghi passed away. Born in Sabbioneta in the province of Mantova, 26 December 1838. A brilliant and courageous officer, highly talented, scrupulously precise in the implementation of his duties, ready always to assume all responsibilities, his life was one of uninterrupted and zealous service to King and Country. He began his studies at the University of Turin, left them in 1859 in order to enter the Military Academy of Ivrea; and in that same year, at the beginning of the campaign, was commissioned as a second lieutenant. Standard Bearer at the siege of Gaeta, he was hit by a musket ball in the right side and won the Silver Medal of Military Valour.

In 1863 he was already captain on the General Staff. He won another Silver Medal of Military Valour in 1864 fighting the Brigands. In an unexpected and serious conflict, he had assumed the command of some leaderless infantry and cavalry; his horse was killed, himself wounded in the arm and chest, but the action under his command was a complete success. In another action in 1866 another horse was killed under him and he was wounded again, when, in order to save General Brignone who was in danger at Monte Croce, had taken command of riflemen and the guides who followed him in charging the enemy. He was awarded the Cross of Knight of the Military Order of Savoia.

Promoted to Major, he taught the History of Military Science at the Military Academy of Modena. He re-entered the General Staff and was shortly promoted to the rank of Colonel, he rose through all the ranks until the supreme rank of Commander of the Army Corps. Appointed a Senator, and then Minister of War in 1902, he retired from the Ministry at the end of October of 1903. In 1869 he had been sent to assist in the great military manoeuvres of Châlons, that were then of no small importance: and in 1878-80 worked actively in the International Commission for the Demarcation of the Turco-Montenegran Border. Rigid in discipline, but full of heart, the soldiers revered and loved him; because under the outer severity, they always felt the justice and the goodness in him. The army has lost in him a skilled and learned officer; the Country has lost a zealous servant, the Senate a dear and much-appreciated member

Military Record and Political Career:

27 February 1859   Giuseppe Ottolenghi enlisted as a volunteer in the Piemontese army and began his career as a cadet with courses at the “Royal Academy of Ivrea”. Giuseppe’s voluntary enlistment should not come as a surprise as so many Jews had participated enthusiastically in the reunification movement following the emancipation campaign of 1848 that the then King, Carl Alberto afforded to the Piemontesi Jews equality of rights with all others in the south. In the ranks of the the Garibaldini (followers of Garibaldi) in 1848-1849 fought two hundred of them.

Giuseppe Ottolenghi joined the other famous Italians of Jewish origin who have left a profound mark in the culture, politics and the military of the country. The number of 235 Jewish volunteers who enlisted in the Sardinian army in 1848, had risen to 260 in the campaign of 1859. In 1860 28 Jewish Officer-cadets entered military colleges, increasing in successive years so that in 1895 the Royal Army yearbook numbered 700 Jewish officers, on permanent active duty or members of the army reserve corps, in the Kingdom of Sardinia, Sardinian citizens, after 1860, Italians, of Jewish origin became completely integrated in the texture of contemporary society and many of them often entered into the ranks of the army, distinguishing themselves in their intelligence, patriotism and ability

11 April 1859 Ottolenghi became the first Italian Jew to being admitted to the Officer Cadet Course of the Army; commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and assigned to the 17th Regiment of Infantry.

27 July 1859   Cultured, skillful and active, in the same year he was promoted to Second Lieutenant in the Army of Infantry and Lieutenant the following year.

12 November 1860  Wounded in the right side by a musket ball during the siege of Gaeta that marked the end of the rule of the House of Bourbon in the south of Italy. On that occasion he was decorated with his first Silver Medal of Military Valour.

12 March 1863  Promoted to the rank of Captain and attached to the General Staff; the following year he was posted to Sicily.

30 May 1864  Wounded in the right arm and the chest from two of the large calibre bullets called “caprioli” during the campaigns against the bandit-brigands “Brigantaggio” at S. Ilario (Basilicata); He was awarded his second Silver Medal of Military Valour.

14 October 1864  Took the Oath of Allegiance in Avellino. 

23 June 1866  Distinguished himself in the battle of Custoza (Verona) and on the next day at Monte Croce, also in the Province of Verona. 

August 1869  Sent to advise and observe in the great manoeuvres of the French army at Châlons, near the border with Germany; at that time so important that they were carried out to the presence of Napoleon III.

9 November 1872  promoted to Major and posted to Sicily to the 62nd Infantry Regiment.

31 May 1877  appointed Chief of General Staff of the 2nd Army Corps at Alessandria.

8 April 1879   member of the international commission for the solution of the conflict and the demarcation of the Turco-Montenegro border. This international assignment of great importance entrusted to Ottolenghi by the Italian Government emphasized the importance of the Sabbionetano General in the army and his much appreciated abilities, military and also diplomatic. 

20 May 1880  Ottolenghi returned to command of the General Staff Corps in Rome.

In November and December 1880  he was sent back on mission to Montenegro.

13 October 1882  the 4th Alpine Regiment and the Aosta Artillery Brigade are established in Turin; 

1 November 1882  Ottolenghi was made the commandant. 

8 April 1888  appointed  Colonel, Commander of the King’s Brigade of Infantry in Rome.

14 April 1889  became the first Italian Jew to reach the rank of Major-General.

1889 to 1891  Instructor in military matters to the Crown Prince, the future King Vittorio Emanuele III. 
13 January 1895  promoted to Lieutenant-General.

16 February 1895  was transferred to Turin as commander of the Territorial Army Corps.

8 July 1899  assumed the command of XII Army Corps in Palermo. 

16 April 1902  Commander of the IV Army Corps. 

14 May 1902  Lieutenent-General Giuseppe Ottolenghi appointed by Royal Decree, “Minister, Secretary of State for War” in the second Zanardelli Government in place of the dismissed Count Gustavo Ponza di San Martino. This appointment was particularly significant since at that time the choice of Ministers was the prerogative of the Crown. The young King Vittorio Emanuele III, had evidently, appreciated Ottolenghi’s tutorship and the general had not forgotten that the Crown Prince had been under his command, some years before, in Naples. 

The following day, in the audience of 15 of June, His Majesty the King appointed Ottolenghi, Senator of the Realm.

From the Minutes of the Senate of 23 Maggio 1903 we learn of the official communication of the nomination from President Saracco.

In the same session, Ottolenghi took oath and immediately introduced a draft of the law concerning conscription. 

He was a minister for only 18 months (in those years the Governments had only short life) during which he was unable to carry out an in-depth restructuring of the army. The international political situation at the time did not threaten war, and the government had other budgetary priorities. 

As Minister for War, Ottolenghi tried to improve the criteria for conscription into the army, the most important military problem at the time. For years, in fact, the Italian General Staff had pressed the Ministry of War for the approval of a new recruiting law that would reduce the signing-on period to two years. That would have brought about an increase of the number of those young people who every year came to enlist, and to an increase of well-trained reservists. The idea was to abandon the national system of recruitment in favour of a regional one which would also speed up mobilization. The annual voluntary service was to be abolished as it had proved to be absolutely useless as source of recruiting officers. 

Parliament however,  did not approve Ottolenghi’s initiatives, privileging those of the wealthier ranks; Ottolenghi accepted the votes of the Chambers without controversies. Ottolenghi’s proposed but unapproved attempts to reform the army demonstrate his farsightedness and competence (the same proposals were to be approved some years later), as well as his deep respect for the decisions of the Parliament. 

The Historical Archives of the Senate of Rome contain the speeches of Ottolenghi before the High Assembly between 12 June 1902 and 1 July 1903. Amongst others that should be noted, the “Dispositions for the Conscription of those born in 1882”, the “Budget of the Ministry of War”, the “Dispositions concerning Portraits of Officers”, the “Modifications to the Laws on the Order of the Royal Army”, the ”Institution of Military Pharmacists”, the “Commemoration of Senator Luigi Cremona”, the “Financial Statement of the Ministry of War”. 

13 November 1902  Decree published in the Official Military Journal, ordered the incorporation of skiing for the alpine regiments. That decision contributed not a little to the promotion of skiing among the people.

In the period of his ministry were acquired, in 1903 from FIAT, the Army’s first internal-combustion engine motor cars. Also in 1903 an army mechanics corps was established. 

29 October 1903 the Zanardelli government fell, and with it, Giuseppe Ottolenghi retired as Minister of War. In the successive Giolitti government the Minister would be Ettore Pedotti.

1 December 1903   General Ottolenghi re-entered the army on active service as Commandant of the Territorial Army Corps of Turin, in place of General Valles. This was a command of great prestige because at that time France was considered a potentially hostile nation and the Army had to bear the onerous tasks of operational planning and logistic organization. It is his last assignment, for a few short months later died of heart failure, whist still on duty in Turin. 

The military career of Giuseppe Ottolenghi is studded with the decorations and most important honours of the Italian Crown

Commemorative Medal of the French Campaign of Italy of 1859. 
Silver Medal of Military Valour according to the citation of 1 June 1861 for his distinguished conduct during the siege of Gaeta 12 November 1860” 
Silver Medal of Military Valour according to the citation of 30 April 1865 for his   distinguished conduct during the campaigns against the “Brigantaggio” bandit-brigands   at S. Ilario (Basilicata) 30 May 1864”. 

Medals for the Wars of Independence and the Unification of Italy, with the fascette of
  the 1859, 1860-61 & 1866 Campaigns. 

Knight’s Cross of the Military Order of Savoia (today of Italy) “for his cool, timely and intelligent action under the fire to execute the orders of the General, charging Monte Croce, regrouped platoons of Riflemen and Guides assigned to the Headquarters. 24 June 1866” [Decree nr 120 bis of 6 December 1866]
Cross of Knight of the Order of the Crown of Italy 27 April 1870. 
Cross of Knight of the Order of Saints Maurizio and Lazzaro, 27 January 1878. 
Cross of Officer of the Order of Saints Maurizio and Lazzaro, of the Crown, 15 January 1880. 
Cross of Knight of the Order of the Crown of Italy 31 January 1881. 
Medal of the “Unification of Italy 1848 – 1870” 26 April 1883. 
Cross of Grand Officer of the Order of the Crown of Italy 28 December 1893. 
Cross of Knight of the Order of Saints Maurizio and Lazzaro “for loyal and distinguished conduct” 21 January 1897. 
Cross of Gold with Royal Crown for seniority 15 December 1900. 
Knight of Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown of Italy 27 December 1900. 
Cross of Grand Officer of the Order of the Saints Maurizio and Lazzaro 31 May 1901. 

Diversi sono i siti Internet dedicati alla famiglia Ottolenghi, suggeriamo di visitare,, 
Il testo è tratto dal libro “Illustri Sabbionetani” di Agosta del Forte. 
Queste ultime notizie sono tratte dal libro “I militari di origine ebraica nel primo secolo di vita dello Stato Italiano” di A. Rovighi. 
L’elenco ci è stato gentilmente fornito dall’Ufficio Storico dello Stato Maggiore dell’Esercito di Roma 

Alberto Sarzi Madidini, Associazione Pro Loco Sabbioneta,

Comune di Sabbioneta,

Comunità Ebraica di Mantova 
Ufficio Archivio Storico del Senato della Repubblica, Roma 
Ufficio Storico dello Stato Maggiore dell’Esercito, Roma 
Archivio Storico della Camera dei Deputati, Roma 
Sig. Umberto Maffezzoli, Sig. Vittorio Rossi, Sig.ra Benecc


The Ottolenghi of Italy


Italy has a very special place in Jewish history because there have been Jews there since biblical times and it is the only place in the world, apart from Israel, where there has been uninterrupted Jewish presence since then.

In Roman times Jewish merchants and envoys settled in the Trastevere quarter on the north bank of the Tiber and in the ruins of ancient buildings Hebrew words and letters can still be found. After the destruction of the Second Temple and the defeat of the Jewish revolt by the Roman general Titus, son of the emperor Vespasian, the treasures of Israel were brought to Rome together with 10,000 slaves. The scene is depicted in the triumphal arch of Titus in the Foro Romano. The treasures including the seven-branched candelabra from the temple, went into the imperial coffers and were used to finance Vespasian’s great public works including the Colosseum, which was probably built by Hebrew slave workers. The Jews exiled from Israel and survivors of the Roman slaves dispersed throughout the Roman empire and many stayed in Italy. In the 14th and early 15th centuries many Jews sought refuge in the north Italy from persecution under the French and Germanic barons who fought and invaded each others territories in southern and central Europe.

From an area which is now known as Provence in the south of France, groups of Jews fleeing from pogroms around the year 1394 crossed the Alps and the Vale of Aosta on the Italian side, settling in an area in Piemonte, the province of Alessandria, between the cities of Turin and Milan.  They became known as the Ottolenghi, some say because they Italianized the name of the Germanic Baron von Ettlingen, from whose lands they had fled. Others, notably the eminent Jewish Italian historian Prof. Vittore Colorni opine that the name is a “toponym” derived from the nearby site of an ancient Roman city called Ottalengum. On that site today there are two tiny villages Odalengo Piccolo with a population of around 300 and the much bigger Odalengo Grande with a population of around 700 famous for its annual truffle harvest and festival.

Jews lived in relative peace and prospered in Italy which at that time was not a single nation but a country of independent principalities, duchies, cities, maritime states and the Papal States. The latter, which were the areas comprising a large region in central Italy, were ruled as a temporal domain by the popes since the year 755. In the Papal Bull of 1569 Jews were expelled from the Papal States and confined to ghettos in the major cities. Although they were allowed to continue their Jewish religious practices, they were restricted to two occupations from which they were permitted to eke their living in the outside world – money lending which was prohibited to Christians by the Gospels of the New Testament, and trading in second hand clothing and rags, which was meant to be demeaning.   

The Grand Duchy of Tuscany in north west Italy was ruled by the di Medici family from their capital city of Florence, with Pisa on the river Arno as their trading port. The river however became silted and when sea-going ships could no longer venture upstream as far as Pisa, the rulers chose Livorno, a tiny fishing village in unhealthy swamp land to be their new port. They dreamed of an international port and centre of commerce like the great maritime states of Venice and Genoa but there were no merchants and bankers with overseas connections in the Tuscan population, so di Medici brought in Portuguese Marranos and Conversos – crypto Jews and survivors of the Grand Inquisition in Spain and Portugal. They had connections with family members who had established themselves in trading cities of northern Europe like Amsterdam and Antwerp and in the colonies of the north, south and central Americas of the “New World” and in what is today Indonesia. In Livorno, being the only city in Italy which did not have a Jewish ghetto, they were allowed complete religious freedom and they established Livorno as a community following the Portuguese rite. It largely remains so today, as the third major stream of Judaism in Italy with the original Jews from the Land of Israel who follow the Minhag Italki (Italian Rite) which they claim to represent the rite practiced in the temple in Jerusalem, and the Ashkenazim who came from central Europe in the late Middle Ages. The Jews of the Italian colonies in north Africa Tripolitania, Libya and Abyssinia have their own synagogues but they follow the oriental (Mizrachi) rite in some ways similar to that of the Portuguese “Western Sephardim”.

Our own Ottolenghi ancestors lived in Livorno and were previously thought to be descended from the Portuguese Jews who settled there. The Portuguese Jews of Livorno did not, however, relinquish their Portuguese names and adopt Italian ones, so it is possible that our ancestors migrated to Livorno from other regions of Italy in order to flee life in the ghettoes and adopted the Portuguese rite in Livorno, but our research has so far failed to uncover a familial connection to the “Italian Ottolenghi” even those still residing in Livorno.

The first “Italian” Ottolenghi had settled in Alessandria, centred around the town of Acqui Terme where the cemeteries are full of gravestones and mausoleums of Ottolenghi families, The town’s name derives from the hot springs favoured by the ancient Romans. The region has many beautiful synagogues dating from the 1500’s although many of the towns like Acqui, Asti, Cuneo, Moncalvo, Mondevi, and Casale Monferrato no longer have thriving Jewish communities. In Asti there is even a Palazzo Ottolenghi once owned by the family but now a public building housing educational and cultural events.

Palazzo Ottolenghi, Asti
The Synagogue, Asti.

In this section we will look at some of those Ottlenghi families and their famous sons through the ages. My favourite famous Italian Ottolenghi is Joseph Solomon Ottolenghe whose biography I researched for a number of years. He was born and grew up in Casal (today Casale Monferrato) and lived and studied in Livorno before leaving for London in 1732. A collateral descendant of Joseph Solomon is Giorgio Salvatore Ottolenghi, president of the Jewish Community of Casale Monferrato in the late 20th & early 21st centuries.

The modern Ottolenghi families are very conscious of their history and heritage, and the family tree of the descendants of Bellom Ottolenghi who was born in Acqui Terme in 1730, is now in its 8th and 9th generations. I had the pleasure and honour of meeting with many members of the contemporary generations and corresponding with others

Ottolenghi in the Shoah

Ottolenghi in the Shoah

The names of Ottolenghi victims of the Shoah are recorded at Yad Vashem

the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, Jerusalem, Israel

In the archives of Yad Vashem rest the names of 72 members of the Ottolenghi families of Italy who are known to have perished in the Holocaust, with biographical notes and testimonies – here are their names

No.Family NameGiven NameBornPlace of ResidenceFate
2Ottolenghi ColomboEmma1866Acqui TermeMurdered
3Ottolenghi FrassinetiTesaura1894RomeMurdered
4Ottolenghi LattesLauretta1875VareseMurdered
8OttolenghiEnrichetta1863Casale MonferratoMurdered
13OttolenghiDorina1886Acqui TermeMurdered
15OttolenghiGiacomo David1897Acqui TermeMurdered
17OttolenghiGiorgio1909Acqui TermeMurdered
21OttolenghiOlga Teresa1885SaviglianoMurdered
23OttolenghiSilvio1889Acqui TermeMurdered
29OttolenghiAldo1902Monticelli D’OnginaMurdered
32OttolenghiGiuseppe1871Casale MonferratoMurdered
33OttolenghiVittoria F. Lina1905GenoaMurdered
35OttolenghiMoshe Adolf1885VeneziaMurdered
43OttolenghiEde Ada1883GenovaMurdered
47OttolenghiTeresa Tesaura1885RomaMurdered
48OttolenghiGianni GianoUnknownMurdered
53OttolenghiEnrichetta1864Casale MonferratoMurdered
63OttolenghiGiano Gianni1908FerraraMurdered
70Ottolenghi RavaEloiza1878ModenaMurdered
71Ottolenghi TeglioRitaRomaMurdered
72Ottolenghi VitaleAdaUnknownMurdered

Their biographical notes and testimonies can be found here:


Lieutenant Yiftach Ottolenghi z”l

Yiftach Ottolenghi was the son of the late Professor Michael and Ruth Ottolenghi of Jerusalem. He was born on 14th May 1971, younger brother of Yotam, who was later to become the celebrity chef and famous restauranteur. As a baby Yiftach was sickly and lost weight every day, so when he grew up to be particularly tall and sturdy, he always aroused wonder in the eyes of those around him.

Yiftach studied little and played a lot during his school days at Agron Elementary School and continued his studies at the high school next to the Hebrew University. In those days he met his girlfriend Keren, with her and with his friends he spent his precious youth. Led by Yiftach, they spent their time roaming the Jerusalem Cinematheque, having fun on the centre stage, documenting their lives in 8mm films which were shown in pubs under the slogan:
“We will have something to tell grandchildren”.

Yiftach’s best friend said: “Yiftach lived life to the fullest and also looked at how he lived with complete awareness.”

Those films demonstrated his charm and wisdom, great stage presence, talent and charisma, he was revered by his friends, loved by the girls, and also hated by them. Despite his extrovert personality, self-confidence, and sense of humour, which sometimes crossed the boundaries of kindness, he was sensitive and kept his inner world – his absolute truth – to himself.

In late July 1989, Yiftach was drafted into the Israel Defence Forces and volunteered for pilot training. After a few months, he resigned from that course and volunteered to serve in the Paratroopers. Soldiers loved him as their commander and appreciated the seriousness with which he did everything down to the last detail. In the letters he wrote he had a lot of criticism. His eyes were always open to what was going on around him, he did his duty and in command of his soldiers, everything he did was accompanied by the added value of an observant person. In the army he became more serious -his attention to detail and thoroughness always guaranteed that things were done only after verifying every last detail.

On 20th May 1992, Lieutenant Yiftach Ottolenghi was killed in a tragic shooting accident whilst on manoeuvres with the Paratroopers Brigade in the north of Israel. His senior officers were found negligent and they were removed from command

Yiftach was laid to rest in the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery  Area: D. Plot: #11 Row: #8 Tomb: #3

A memorial was erected in Yiftach’s army base in the centre of Israel
ת נ צ ב”ה
Ottolangui UK

The Last Flight of Sergeant (Air Bomber) Aaron Ottolangui

Sgt. Air Bomber Aaron Ottolangui

Aaron Ottolangui was born in Bethnal Green in January 1921, grandson of Aaron Ottolangui & Mary nee Sharp (Schaap), son of their 8th child Mordechai born 1895 and his first wife Sarah who was born in 1897 to Abraham Garcia and Rebecca nee Witmond.  Mordechai known as Monty and Sarah married on 14th August 1912 in Bethnal Green. Sarah’s sister Julia married George Ottolangui, Monty’s younger brother.

Aaron’s sister Annie was born in 1925 and his mother, Sarah died in 1931.

Aaron, service number 1391065, joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR). The RAFVR was formed in July 1936 to provide individuals to supplement the Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAAF) which had been formed in 1925 by the local Territorial Associations. The AAF was organised on a Squadron basis, with local recruitment similar to the Territorial Army Regiments. The object was to provide a reserve of aircrew for use in the event of war. By September 1939, the RAFVR comprised 6,646 Pilots, 1,625 Observers and 1,946 Wireless Operators.

When war broke out in 1939 the Air Ministry employed the RAFVR as the principal means for aircrew entry to serve with the RAF. A civilian volunteer on being accepted for aircrew training took an oath of allegiance (‘attestation’) and was then inducted into the RAFVR. Normally he returned to his civilian job for several months until he was called up for aircrew training. During this waiting period he could wear a silver RAFVR lapel badge to indicate his status.

By the end of 1941 more than half of  RAF Bomber Command aircrew were members of the RAFVR. Eventually of the “RAF” aircrew in the Command probably more than 95% were serving members of the RAFVR.

In October 194, Aaron married Betty Moscovitz

Aaron & Betty Wedding Photograph

Around 1942 Aaron was posted as a Bomb Aimer to 101 Squadron Bomber Group 3, at RAF Holme-on-Spalding Moor, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, near Pocklington, about halfway between Scunthorpe and Scarborough. 101 Squadron was the flying AVRO Lancaster Mk.1, Heavy Bomber

The role of bomb-aimer was introduced in 1942 as the new heavy bombers required seven-man crews. The bomb-aimer took control of the aircraft when it was on its bombing run. He would lie flat in the nose of the aircraft, directing the pilot until the bombs were released and the bombing photograph was taken. The photograph was the proof that the operation had been completed, which meant the crew could count it towards their total number of operations carried out.

This is the official photograph of a bomb aimer at his post in the nose of a Lancaster Mk. 1 heavy bomber

The RAF service records are still classified, so we do not know how many missions Aaron flew, but on 14th April 1943 Aaron took off in his Lancaster registration number W4951, Call Sign SR-O or SR-P together with 6 other crew members:
Pilot                             1043580 Sergeant Robert Gordon Hamilton
Navigator                   127970 Flying-Officer Henry Eifon Clement
Flight Engineer         1149392 Sergeant Frank Wood
Wireless Operator    1129644 Sergeant Joseph Leadbetter Cartmell
Air Gunner                 1601428 Sergeant George William Henry Northover
Air Gunner                 1307887 Sergeant Peter Donovan Steed

Their mission was a night bombing raid over Stuttgart which they completed and were flying back to base when they were attacked at around 02.18 a.m., and shot down by Luftwaffe heavy night fighter pilot Oberleutnant Rudolf Altendorf of the 2./NJG 4, flying the Messerschmitt Bf 110 3C+EK from Florennes airfield in Belgium.

Messerschmitt BF-110 Night Fighter

The crippled Lancaster lost control and crashed into the forest between Trelon and Eppe Sauvage near Maubeuge, Hauts-de-France, Northern France. There were no survivors.

Aaron and his comrades are buried in the Mauberge Centre cemetery in Block A

The site of Aaron’s grave is circled in red

Aaron shares a headstone with his Flight Engineer Sergeant Frank Wood alongside the rest of the crew

Note the small pebble atop the stone, a Jewish tradition to indicate that the grave has been recently visited

On the wall of the cemetery there is a brass plaque with the names of the aircrew which was donated by Dr. Tommy and Michelle de Tournay of Belgium, in perpetual memory of the gallant crew of W4951. The dedication took place on Sunday 5th May 2016 with participation of the Mayor and Council of Eppe Sauvage, as part of the village commemoration of the end of the Second World War.

Look at the age of the crew members – average 21½ years

The crew are given special mentions every time there is a ceremony in the village on the anniversaries of VE-Day and the liberation of the village by US forces as well as on Remembrance Sunday.

Never to be forgotten.

My thanks for their assistance and participation in preparing this tribute go
 to Cathie Hewitt, curator of

William (Bill) Hyett
Family friend of F/O. Henry Eifon Clement
Navigator of W4951

Ottolangui UK Uncategorized

The Last Voyage of AS George Gershom Ottolangui

In the courtyard of the Bevis Marks synagogue on the wall to the left of the main doors, there is a plaque commemorating those members of the congregation who lost their lives in the Great War 1914-1918, and in the Second World War 1939-1945.

In the WW2 section appears the name Gershom Ottolangui.

We never knew who he was, because we had no-one of that name in our direct family. Now I have found out, after more than a little research that he was George, born in 1921 to Monty Ottolangui & Fanny nee Caplin, of Bow. He was not from our direct family line but was our fourth cousin.  

George was lost at sea on the Merchant Navy vessel S.S. Empire Heritage aged 23 on 8th September 1944. He is also remembered on Panel 41 of the Merchant Navy Memorial in Trinity Square on Tower Hill. He was not a crew member of the S.S. Empire Heritage but was on board as a passenger being a “Distressed British Seaman” which probably means that he had been rescued from a different ship which had sunk. His rank was Assistant Steward.

This is the Merchant Navy Memorial on Tower Hill in London, commemorating the more than 50,700 Commonwealth merchant seamen who lost their lives in the two world wars. The Tower Hill Memorial commemorates more than 35,800 casualties who have no known grave.

The Merchant Navy Memorial, Tower Hill

His father Monty was the son of George Monty Ottolangui, and grandson of Aaron Ottolangui and Reyna, nee Bensabat. Monty who died 8th October 1989 and his wife Fanny are buried in the S&P section at Hoop Lane Cemetery in Golders Green at location SPF-119-50.

Here is the story of SS Empire Heritage.

S.S. Empire Heritage

S.S. Empire Heritage was built as a steam tanker ship in 1930 by Armstrong Whitworth & Company in Newcastle-upon-Tyne but actually started life under another name as Tafelberg, first used in South Africa as whale factory ship until January 1941 when it was hit by a mine and put out of service. A year later, the wreckage was refloated and the ship salvaged, repaired, re-purposed and renamed SS Empire Heritage by the British Ministry of War Transport (MoWT) and returned to service in February 1943.

An unintentional casualty of war in its first life, it would be the victim of a vicious enemy attack in its second incarnation. In early September of 1944, the ship under the command of the master, Captain J.G. Jamieson O.B.E., was en-voyage from New York to Liverpool carrying a heavy cargo of war supplies including 16,000 tons of oil and a deck cargo of Sherman tanks, half-tracks and trucks. By 8th September 1944, 15 miles northwest of Malin Head (the most northerly point of Ireland) its journey would end, torpedoed by the German submarine U-482. After two direct hits the vessel went down fast to the seabed some 70 metres beneath the waves, with all the cargo and a loss of 113 lives.

An escort ship, SS Pinto, attempted to rescue the survivors but was also hit and sank in the same attack. Survivors from both ships were eventually picked up and rescued by HMS Northern Wave and taken ashore at Derry, Northern Island.

The wreck of the S.S. Empire Heritage is designated as a war grave and is the final resting place of George Gershom Ottolangui. The wreck of S.S. Empire Heritage and its cargo lay silently beneath the waves until 1995 when rediscovered by divers. The tanks and trucks are still visible scattered on the seabed next to the wreck. Photographs of the wreck and its cargo can be viewed on the website The full story and rather a nice underwater video can be found at

The German Type VII submarine (U-boat) was the most commonly deployed U-boat in the Atlantic War. A total of 703 were built, of which only one survives

The surviving Type VII U-Boat at the Laboe Naval Memorial near Kiel.

 U-482 was fitted with a Schnorchel underwater-breathing system and its crew of 34 mariners, was commanded by a German naval career officer from an aristocratic family, Kapitan-Leutenant Hartmut Graf von Matuschka, Freiherr von Toppolczan und Spaetgen, who was born 29th December 1914.

Kapitan-Leutenant Hartmut Graf von Matuschka, Freiherr von Toppolczan und Spaetgen,

His career began around April 1934 and he rose through the ranks to Kapitan-Leutentant by 1st April 1942.  He was decorated with the Iron Cross 2nd class, then the Iron Cross 1st class and the German Cross in Gold in September 1944.

At the outbreak of war Graf von Toppolczan was an adjutant at Gotenhafen Naval HQ, and in 1940 he left the staff at the Coastal Artillery detachment there to serve on the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen.

He joined U-boat arm, the Ubootwaffe, in March 1943, commissioned U-482 in December 1943.

He died with the rest of his crew when U-482 was lost at sea on 25th November 1944.

A younger brother of Kptlt. Graf von Toppolczan’s died on active service in 1943. He was an Oberst (Group Captain) in the Luftwaffe when lost in action. Another brother survived the war and reached an advanced age.

Between 16th August 1944 and 18th November 1944, U-482 had completed two missions, spending a total of 50 days at sea, during which time it made attacks on 4 Allied convoys sinking 4 merchant ships and one Royal Navy corvette, HMS Hurst Castle, for a total of 32,621 tons.

The loss of U-482 was first attributed to being sunk by British Support Group 22, then in the 1990’s the Admiralty asserted that it had hit a mine in the North Channel, but U-Boat researchers believe that U-482 had been sunk on 25th November 1944 in the North Atlantic west of the Shetland Islands, in position 60.18N, 04.52W, by depth charges from the British Royal Navy frigate HMS Ascension, after being located by a Norwegian Sunderland aircraft of 330 Squadron RAF/Group on 24 November 1944, with the loss of all hands.

This is the memorial to the S.S. Empire Heritage and her crew on Panel #41 at the Merchant Navy Memorial on Tower Hill.

Panel #41
George Ottolangui is the 10th name from the bottom


22nd July 2020

The Search for My Ottolangui Heritage
How It All Began………

I can’t remember when it was that first I found out that we had a “foreign” name, but I knew it had not been in use for quite a long time as my paternal grandmother Sophie, who was one of the oldest people that I knew at that time, had always been known as “Mrs. Langley” and Langley was the name used by all my known family members.

I remember growing up in the belief that my father had legally changed the family name before I was born and nobody really knew from where the name “OTTOLANGUI” had derived, except that my father’s brother-in-law, Aaron a.k.a. Tommy always called the Ottolangui family “The Portugeezers” alluding to the Iberian ancestry that members of the Spanish & Portuguese Jewish Congregation in England reportedly shared.

A little background; my father, his father before him and his grandfather before both, attended the Spanish & Portuguese synagogue in Bevis Marks which is an ancient street at the eastern end of the City of London. Jewish people had been expelled from England by order of the king in the year 1290 and had been allowed to return to England in 1656.  Most of the Jews who relocated to London had come from families expelled from Spain or Portugal at the time of the Inquisition via Amsterdam or the colonies, and they established the London Jewish community in the business, banking and shipping district known as “the City”, holding their prayer services in a house in Cree Church Lane which would lead, some 50 years later, to the opening of the synagogue around the corner in Bevis Marks.

My father took us every year to the Bevis Marks synagogue for the Jewish holidays where I soon found out that the other members of the congregation all had names which originated from Spain, Portugal and Holland. Administrative notices, and parts of the prayer service that were not in Hebrew were given in Spanish or more usually Portuguese, and my father was always referred to as Shelomo de Avraham ben Aharon Ottolangui, a name which is not Iberian in origin but its “gui” ending was quite Portuguese sounding. At my Bar Mitzvah ceremony in 1959, I was called to the Torah at Bevis Marks as the young, Barak de Shelomo ben Avraham Ottolangui, which is about as aristocratic as I ever got to be.

I remember that I checked my birth certificate and found that I had been registered as “Langley” around three weeks after I was born, many years passed without my having any further knowledge or interest in “that” name, or in its history.

The name “Ottolangui” sounded a little like the Italian name “Ottolenghi”, but since we were “The Portugeezers” there could clearly be no connection.

More than 30 years then passed without any further interest on my part, until I was visiting my parents in London and in an attempt to get my father’s mind off my mother’s ill health, I sat him down and challenged him about his family’s history, thinking that it would take the whole day to record. Whilst he came up with some amusing and interesting anecdotes about various of his aunts and uncles, I was disappointed to learn that he knew nothing prior to his paternal grandparents and only very little about them. He did however mention that years and years ago, two of his uncles had left the rest of the family in London. His oldest uncle, Uncle Izzie (Israel) Ottolangui had gone to Bristol about 100 miles away on the west coast around the time of the First World War where married under an assumed name, after which there had been no further contact. The other, Uncle George and his wife Julia had been evacuated from London at the start of the Second World War in 1939 and relocated to the rural town of St. Neot’s near Cambridge, never to be heard of again. My father was already the sole known survivor of his own generation so there really wasn’t anybody else to ask and I filed away the few pages of information that he had given me and forgot about it all.

That was until the early May of 1999, when using the modern wonder of the internet to relieve my boredom, I used whatever search engine that was the then equivalent of Google to look up the name Ottolangui in the faint hope of finding some trace of the lost uncles. The entire World Wide Web could only come up with but two references. One was a champion weightlifter by the name of Ottolangui living in Hertfordshire in England, and another was a different Ottolangui, who was also living in the English county of Hertfordshire, so I took them to be closely related. There was a workplace email address for the second one so I sent him a message, he replied, and that is where it all began. In the genealogy process, often the first, and sometimes the only, thing that you’ll find are others looking for the same family roots. My early communications lead to contact with a few other Ottolangui descendants but failed to lead us to finding any connection between us. Widening my net into the databases of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Great Britain, I found leads to other anonymous researchers into Ottolangui history. One serious lady researcher in New Zealand pointed me in the direction of the Church of the Latter Day Saints to search their very considerable genealogical research resources and it was there that I found data on my father’s grandfather, uncles and aunts. In pursuit of the origin of this data I was able to contact a thitherto unknown someone in Salt Lake City. She turned out to be the daughter of my father’s cousin Stella. Combining the results of Ottolangui research, we found another Ottolangui/Langley in Palo Alto, California, a scion of the New Zealand Ottolangui family.

The combined results all pointed us to a common ancestor, David Ottolenghi, who came to London from the Portuguese Jewish community of Livorno in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in 1776, but there was a loose end that we needed to tie off to complete connection to the line. By following the Spanish & Portuguese Jewish tradition of naming sons after the living father or grandfather, we made a quantum leap and connected the son and grandson of David Ottolenghi, both named Israel. Then, through connections with the Jewish community of Livorno made possible by the marriage of one of the Roman Ottolenghi families with the Bedarida family who administered the Livorno congregation, we were able to find David’s birth records and his parents’ (Menachem Emanuel Ottolenghi and Judica di Velletri) “Ketubah” (marriage certificate) in which the “novio” (groom) is named “Menachem ben Meir Ottolenghi”. That took us back one more generation as far as the late 1600s, but we could go no further.

The family history contains a narrative mixture of factual genealogy, anecdotal family lore, urban legend, historical biographies and adventures which over the ensuing years took me back to our family’s earliest known roots in the 1600s in Italy, to the 18th century in Exeter’s Southgate Prison and then to the British Colonies in America, to the 18th & 19th century slums of the East End of London and the Central Criminal Court (the Old Bailey), and by way of convict ships to Van Diemen’s Land, shipwrecks in the Indian Ocean and china merchants in Australia and New Zealand. 

On the way I became distracted whilst trying to establish a link to the Italian Ottolenghi families, a meandering loop in which I made contacts with some three hundred Italian O’s and some of their aristocratic families in Italy, France, Switzerland, Spain, Greece, Israel, Canada, USA, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador and elsewhere, got to meet with a goodly few of them in my travels.  I also “discovered” Giuseppe Salomone Ottolenghe of Casal (now Casale Monferrato in Piedmont) and Livorno, later known as Joseph Solomon Ottolenghi and spent years researching and writing his biography, only to find that an excellent biography had already been published in the Georgia Historical Quarterly, by B.H. Levy, called Joseph Solomon Ottolenghi – “Kosher Butcher in Italy to Christian Missionary in America”.

In this whirlwind adventure it took me 18 years until I was finally able to trace and make contact with descendants of my dad’s lost uncles Izzie and George…..but I got there in the end…….


Welcome to the O-Blog

This is where you will find regular updates and news items which have particular relevance to the lives and times of our Ottolenghi/Ottolangui ancestors, the communities in which they settled, those in which we grew up, and the things that have influenced them and us through the generations.

We found our ancestral Ottolenghi family living, in the early part of the 18th century, in the city of Livorno in Tuscany, where Menachem Emmanuel Ottolenghi son of Meir Ottolenghi, married Judica de Valletro in 1719. They had a large number of children including David, born in 1734. David eventually left Italy for England and arrived in London in 1776 with three of his children who in turn started the Ottolangui dynasties that still live in England and those that emigrated to settle in Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere
These are their stories………………………………